“I’ve had migraines for 17 years. I have tried everything under the sun and yoga is the only thing that has consistently helped me.” —Abby Gartland, Traverse City, MI
Would you believe some forty five million Americans suffer with frequent headaches, and that there actually exists a National Headache Foundation? Did you know some 75% of adults who suffer with migraines are female?
When confronted by this painful intruder, most folks quickly attempt to head it off with over the counter medication. That makes this headache phenomena big business! The trouble with the almighty pill is that it is only a temporary solution and doesn’t treat the cause. If you are prone to headaches, you are most likely aware of some of the common triggers. Stress, lack of sleep, improper diet (lack of eating and over eating) are a few.
Other culprits may include your posture and even your teeth. Dr. Margaret Holiday, a chiropractor from California says, “anything that distorts the spinal curves has the potential to cause headaches.” Many physicians concur that most headaches are a result of muscle tension in the back of the neck, in particular the semi-spinal muscle (semispinalis capitis).
Muscles around the neck and head all affect the tension spots, between and behind the eyes. With so many people spending long periods of time in front of computer screens, slouching and intense eye focus, together are breeding some super-siz head misery. Dr. Jan Lewis Brandes, M.D., of the Department of Neurology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says that most people assume they have tension type sinus headaches when more than ninety percent of these people have migraines.
Not so readily recognized, improper bite, night time tooth grinding, and other mouth and teeth issues can also lead to powerful headaches. Sinus headaches can even be the body’s response to poor diet, constipation, and colon irritation. Other issues like heredity, hormonal fluctuations, disrupted sleep and lack of exercise may also lead to the big ache. With all these complexities and varieties of potential causes, where does one begin to bring real relief for headaches? From the yoga medicine perspective, the following advice is offered:
Try to identify the source of your pain. Keep a “headache journal” about what you eat, your activities, situations, and other information that may guide you to a pattern.
Do a regular yoga practice and start stretching, releasing and relaxing at the first sign of a headache. The more you maintain a regular practice, the fewer headaches you will encounter.
Try hydrating. Some headaches are caused by too much heat in the digestive fires of the body, leading to dehydration. This type of headache may be characterized by shooting, burning or piercing pain in the temples or behind the eyes. So, add more water to your day and drink cool cumin coriander tea (equal parts of each). Try two tablespoons of aloe vera gel up to three times a day. Eat sweet, fresh fruit. Avoid hot spices, deep fried, or salty foods.
If your headache feels like it may be the result of fear, anxiety or stress, travel, being hungry, exhaustion or from constipation, you, also, should hydrate. Ayurveda, eastern Indian medicine, would say to take tripahala (a bowel tonic and cleanser) by capsule or tea. Try 4 ounces of warm prune juice on arising, and put warm sesame oil in your nostrils to moisturize, both morning and night.
If your headache feels dull and very frontal with sinuses irritated, especially in mornings or evenings, let go of mucous producing foods such as cheese, wheat, sugar, or fatty foods.
Massage yourself before bed. Rub your head neck, forehead and feet. Sesame oil is especially good for tension type headaches, coconut oil (cooling) for migraines and bathe in eucalyptus soap for more mucous driven headaches.
Use the essential oil, lavender to help induce sleep, relieve tension, and provide headache relief. Lavender is a natural sedative for the nervous system.
Remember to stay away from highly processed and chemicalized foods with preservatives such as nitrates, sodium nitrites, and aspartame.
Make an effort to resolve sticky relationships or stressful work issues.
Finally, use yoga asanas, especially restoratives, restful poses and breath as medicine. If you suffer from migraines (a display of too much heat in the brain) you require, cooling down and deep relaxation. Follow your breath and use long, smooth, slow deep breathing.
Try a few yoga wonder poses. Legs Up Wall and Reclined Bound Angle pose with your head wrapped (removing the light and adding gentle pressure to the head) are powerful restoratives. Other great poses include Belly Frog, Forward Bend, and Downward Facing Dog. Engage in smooth easy breathing, letting go a deeper layer of tension with every successive exhalation. There is no stretch quite like yoga stretch. Synchronizing breath and movement, pulls the toxins and clears the cobwebs from the brain. You can smile a little brighter and say good-bye to pain!
Originally published in Healing Garden Journal
Art work by : doloresdepalabra: Robert Carter